Washington, DC’s Darkest Hour seem to have pissed a lot of people off. Whether it be the police while trying to tour around the US, problems with their label, and now some fans. They seem to be provoking a reaction with a lot of what they do – at least it’s not a boring ride with DC’s finest, eh?
Since 1994, their brand of melodic metalcore has remained true throughout, their albums have all been pretty stellar (2003’s Hidden Hands of a Sadist Nation, 2005’s Undoing Ruin, 2007’s Deliver Us notably being fan favourites) but their sound has remained relatively untouched – until now.
Instead of just the guitars doing the melodies, vocalist John Henry has taken up part of that responsibility, to a pleasing end. Opener “Wasteland” is a mid-paced, grinding slab of metal that any fan of the Gothernburg style would love – until, the half-sung/spoken vocals come in. Fret ye not fans, Darkest Hour are not clawing at the billboard or popular charts in any way, they are clearly just taking their metal influences from bands that don’t just melt your faces but have vocal melodies too and incorporating them into their sound. With songs like “The Misery We Make” and “By The Starlight” featuring LA singer / songwriter Draemings are perfect examples of their skill with vocal melodies and song writing, but without losing their edge.
The only thing that isn’t there on the new album is the constant heavy-ness of previous records. Though the band may be doing something different or new to their sound, this should be applauded and not lamented as something they have lost. They haven’t lost anything, they are adding components that where not there before. Bands need to do something new every so often, if only for themselves so they are not type cast into recording the same sounding record every few years.
At the end of the day, you can be along for the ride with them, or if you don’t like it, get off and just listen to those albums before, but you will be missing out on a band who want to push their own boundaries, try new things, and deserve your attention for that alone – but to miss out on a stunning track like “Departure” would be doing yourself a disservice. - Andrew
Considering that My Iron Lung has only existed for 3 years, they’ve managed to make quite a name for themselves in the emo-core scene, leading to Relief, the band’s first full-length album since forming in San Diego back in 2011.
The first two tracks, “Commonwealth” and “Conflict Of Interest”, echo delightfully of classic emo, but with hints of hardcore influence. Almost like Sunny Day Real Estate and Small Brown Bike had a kid, and that kid listened to a lot of Fugazi. Track #3, “The Darkest Past”, reminds me of a harder version of The Appleseed Cast. Actually, the more I think about it, most of this album reminds me of a harder version of The Appleseed Cast. Wonderfully toned and intricate guitar work, with super composed drums, heavy underlying bass, and vocals that sing just as much as they scream. If anyone out there is classifying this band as hardcore, let me say it is the most interesting and complex hardcore I have heard in years. Of the 10 songs on the record, none of them let up in their originality, complexity, or intensity.
The band just finished up a major national tour with Hundreth, Counterparts, and Handguns, and then they jump across the pond for a string of shows in the UK this winter. If I had to call it now, expect their opener status to be a very temporary thing. This band is one single away from being a headliner. - Brendan
Origin’s latest interstellar masterpiece, Omnipresent, is the latest in a recent movement of extreme metal records dedicated to the frozen infinite void of deep space. Truthfully, it’s pretty difficult to think of a more fitting theme to pair with the relentless stylings of one of the US’s most notoriously brutal technical death metal bands. Notorious drummer John Longstreth’s unbelievably fast blast beats alone are perfectly cast in songs about traveling faster than light speed.
Musically speaking, Omnipresent has an awful lot going for it. It’s unmistakably an Origin record – packed with examples of the Kansas five piece’s technical proficiency and breakneck speed. At the same time, there’s probably more variety to be found on Omnipresent than on any of their previous releases. An unexpected and fun surprise is the track “Redistribution of Filth” which (vocals and drums aside) comes across as more of a 90’s hardcore song than what one might expect from a death metal act.
It’s easy for notoriously fast artists to write songs that maintain that speed throughout, but Origin does a good job of demonstrating when to slow things down for effect – often descending into extra-heavy half- and quarter-speed sections before returning to full throttle. “Unattainable Zero” is one of the best examples of this – constantly switching gears between the super fast and super slow, while somehow having it all make sense.
The middle of the album offers an unexpected melodic break in the form of “Continuum” – which feels a little like placing your nose inside a plastic mask for one last fleeting gasp of air before hurtling back through six punishing tracks’ worth of the vacuum of space.
Make no mistake about it: Omnipresent has a lot more to offer than tempo changes and technical prowess. These 13 tracks are peppered with memorable, even beautiful solo work. And while I wouldn’t exactly describe anything Origin has ever done as catchy, I’d say this is easily the most accessible record they’ve ever released – largely due to some very creative song structuring.
I’d say Omnipresent is my favorite Origin record yet – delivering all that their fan base expects in the most sophisticated and accessible package to date. - Paul
Let me start this review by saying I am not a fan of most Weezer covers. Like most Nirvana covers, the band playing the song is often missing the mark completely. They’re thinking about how they can interpret the song before they think about what the song means – and although I enjoy You Blew It’s music, I was not sure what to expect from this EP.
Thankfully, the band has delivered a solid set of excellent covers, and it’s all rather refreshing. All 5 songs come from the sessions that made up the groundbreaking Blue Album, Weezer’s first rock masterpiece. Although You Blew It dials the distortion back, they hit the nail directly on the head when it comes to the feel and attitude of the music. The annunciation coming from the singer’s voice is absolutely welcomed and can help even a seasoned Weezer fan remember the right words to the songs. With “Only In Dreams”, YBI demonstrates that they truly understand why this music was created and how it affects the fans. They take a slight spin on the arrangement, but do not deviate from the core melodies and notes. The inclusion of “Suzanne” as the final song on the EP is a superb choice. As a fan of the original version, this new dialed-back and gently picked version is so smooth to the ears.
When Weezer released the Blue Album 20 years ago, those songs touched millions of people in an incredible way. They were an anthem for the nerds, the outcasts, the kids who felt they were the odd ones out. Listening to YBI cover these songs and keep the anthems alive, well, that gives me hope for music and makes me a die hard fan of both bands all over again. - Brendan
The metalcore scene is saturated with acts that are more or less the same; uninventive, carbon copies of the bands that preceded them. There is a lot of fight for attention and musicianship – with talent have being pushed aside in favour of style and predictability, but with bands like Texas In July, there is still hope that the real heart and soul of the genre can win through.
As with all previous releases, Bloodwork shows that the band is still able to write fun and interesting music, with real grit and power, even with 4 albums and their Salt Of The Earth EP under their belts. Drummer Adam Grey has proved time and time again that his talent behind the kit is something that shouldn’t ever be held back. Intricate, interesting performances and his sheer power could never be denied. The instrumental track “Decamilli” is a perfect example of his talent. New vocalist T.J Cavey has real punch in his vocal style, while still being able to perform the half-spoken, half-sung vocals during “Sweetest Poison” – one of the album’s stand out tracks.
From furious starter “Nooses”, the anthemic “Sweetest Poison”, the technicality of “Decamilli”, and the powerful closer “Bloodwork”, this album is a great reminder that there is life in a genre that gets passed over by lazy people who are unprepared to look for the real talent out there. - Andrew
It’s not often you get you spend the day with an up-and-coming pop star. Often guarded, surrounded by teams of people – they don’t tend to be the most public bunch. Thankfully, our day with Spencer Sutherland couldn’t have been further from those stereotypes. Sutherland, the Columbus, OH native, and current Los Angeles transplant, was a featured artist on this past summer’s RunAround Tour with Jake Miller and Before You Exit, and we caught up with him at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jefferson, NJ. You might not think of a theme park as natural venue for a show, but the facilities they have set up at Six Flags were more than equipped to handle an event of this size. Keep reading for our full recap of our day with Spencer, some great photos from before, during, and after his set, as well answers to a few burning questions we had for him.
Generally speaking, regular show days for us start out like this: Drive to the venue, check in with the box office about our credentials, and make our way to wherever the artist we were to cover was hanging about – and then, you know, do whatever it was we were doing that day, most of the time doing an interview and then heading back to the main room and taking lots of notes and photos. Except that this day was anything but ordinary. We knew that doing a #TOURLIFE feature meant spending a lot of time behind the scenes but we didn’t expect to be looked at as part of the family. Not only did Sutherland’s team have us set up with entry to the park and the show, but they also set aside VIP bracelets as well as artists passes, just like the ones Sutherland and his bandmates would be carrying. After checking in, we attempted to make our way over to the stage. We say “attempted”, because it took more than a few wrong turns around the maze-like compound that is Six Flags Great Adventure before finding Sutherland and Co.
We met up with Sutherland and his people – those being a photo/videographer and his manager, who greeted us with smiles and hugs – and chatted backstage before his set. Talking about the day’s event, and the previous shows on the tour, it was clear that this had been a great experience for Sutherland up to this point – and a promising step in establishing the Spencer Sutherland brand. One thing that stood out was that Sutherland seemed very focused, like a kid about to take the SATs. At first you might think it was nerves about performing but the more you watch him pacing around behind the curtain, the more you realize that he’s concentrating and making sure that he’s ready to give the crowd their money’s worth and then some with his talents.
How has this tour schedule been, with two days “on” and then five days “off”?
It’s definitely not your regular, month-long tour. It’s way different than anything I’ve ever done. It’s only my second tour – my first one was fifteen days straight, a show every day – and then this one is eight shows with about five days in between. It’s nice because you get to go home. I love to work out, and that’s really hard to do on the road – hotel gyms aren’t the best. But when I get to go home for four or five days I get to work out and then I don’t feel so bad about not working out for a few days.
I really love travelling and being out on the road – I would love to have a show every night.
By the time Sutherland and his band took the stage the crowd – mostly young girls – was screaming with excitement. Starting with covers of “Royals”, “Fancy”, and Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”, Sutherland showed off not only the full range of his voice – reaching deeper lows than those on his recorded works, and slipping in sneaky falsettos that seemed to come out of nowhere – as well as displaying his natural charm and charisma in front of a crowd. When it came time for him to perform his own single “Heartstrings”, a majority of the crowd sang along with him, knowing every word. Another pleasant surprise was his dance moves. Although his voice may be the main focus of his career, his dancing skills easily rank him higher on the pop radar. Could there be an actor hidden somewhere in there too? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
You performed a number of covers during your set, was that something special for this kind of crowd?
As a brand new artist you want to win crowds over, and singing songs that they already know will help a lot. But I do enjoy putting my own spin on them, it’s really fun. And the crowds are actually starting to sing back my songs which is… mindblowing, it’s pretty crazy. But it’s really awesome.
Putting their own spin on these popular Top 40 hits without any hesitation, Sutherland and his band clearly have a natural chemistry and cohesiveness – “but the fans know who they are – it’s more than just a backing band”, he would tell us later. Seeing those guys on stage and off, they’re like a group of brothers and best friends. Cracking inside jokes, picking on each other for their television show preferences and general goofing around seems to be the glue that helps keep them together. Let’s face it, when you’re on the road and living in hotels for most of your days, the one thing you miss most is family, but these guys have each other. Who else would you want to tour the world with other than your best friends? Spencer Sutherland may be seen as a solo artist, but if he has his way, his band will be going with him everywhere he goes in the future.
You’re looking to keep your band intact when you get signed. What is the relationship with them like?
With a lot of artists they have back up bands who are hired – if they get along with them, great, if they don’t, they either get dropped or they have to deal with it. But I was lucky enough to basically build my band. Will, my guitarist, I’ve known since the second grade. I’ve actually jammed with other guitarists just for the fun of it, and just no one knows me as well as he does musically. Sean [drummer] was Will’s friends from other bands they played in. He came and played with us one day – about a year ago – and now he’s my other best friend in the world. I don’t think a lot of artists have that kind of bond with their band. This sounds cheesy, but I truly love them. They’re like brothers.
When you’re talking to a potential label, are you speaking as a solo artist, or as a band?
I’m presented as a solo artist, but the fans know who they are – it’s more than just a backing band. It’s really hard to explain, but I think everyone [in the band] feels the same way.
After his set Sutherland was back in front of the crowd working his way along the barricade meeting and greeting and hugging every fan along the way; he stopped to take more selfies than we could count – a photo of which you can see below.
Unlike some artists that have a strict “lean in from the front of the table” rule during meet-and-greets, Sutherland is out in the open and ready to give you that hug to make the photo that much more special. We even caught him giving (and receiving) kisses on the cheek as well as doing various poses, such as giving someone a piggyback ride or posing like they’re at prom. Out of respect for the other artists performing, Sutherland was always careful not to take attention away from those on stage, promising anyone he didn’t get to meet between sets that he would be back at his merch table as soon as they were done. Towards the end of the day, we decided it was time for some adventures. Since some of us are not really ride people, we opted to play it safe and head for the tea cups.
— Emo At Heart (@EmoAtHeartSite)August 23, 2014
On our way there, we sent out a tweet saying that was where we were going and for fans to meet us there. By the time we got in line and were getting ready to get on the ride, a small group of fans had caught up with us and got an extra special treat of riding with the singer that they adored.
One thing is for sure, Sutherland is not some created entity looking to profit on popularity, he is one of the most genuine, caring, and real people you will ever meet in the pop world. It’s easy to get caught up in the spotlight and have diva-like tendencies, but instead Sutherland is more focused on the needs of his friends and fans. One thing that stands out most regarding the above statement is a moment backstage before one of the other artists were about to perform. There wasn’t much time but he needed to get back out to the merch table to meet more fans. Someone said to him “it’s ok, you don’t have to meet everyone”, and in a semi-bummed and 100% honest voice he replied with “..but I want to”. It was then we knew just how real he was, and we did our best to help get him through the crowd and over to the merch tent so he could get in a few more photos and hugs before the day was done.
Due to the exposure you’ve gotten from this tour you’ve been approached about doing future tours. What is your reaction to that increased awareness about you?
It’s a great feeling. You know that you’re doing something right. All I really want to do is tour – forever. Just tour until I’m tired of it. And to have someone at a show come up and say that is really awesome – it’s the number one thing that I want to do. It’s really exciting.
After a bit more chit-chat with Sutherland and his team (who are some of the best people we’ve ever met) and discussing some fun ideas, as well as our mutual love for the Edison Diner (which was out next stop), we exchanged hugs and got ready to head out. Right before we left, Sutherland thanked us for everything and asked if he would see us again next tour, which we replied with an absolutely. There’s really something special about him and we hope to continue promoting and supporting his career for many years to come.